Paul Balm will be renewing his Panthers season ticket for 2018/19 and here he tells us why…
I’m a fool. I’m an idiot. I’m an open wallet begging to be emptied. I’m totally accepting of everything that has happened this season. I’m the reason nothing will change.
Those are the responses I’m likely to get when I say that I’m going to fill in my season ticket renewal form. In the main they might be right. I am, almost certainly, a foolish idiot. I’ve been called far worse for stating an opinion and my giving the club over a thousand pounds before I know what the team is going to look like in the coming season, is a signal that things don’t need to change. I know all that and I’m still going to do it. So why am I going to do it?
For a start, even though I agree with some of the brickbats I’ll get at me for having this opinion I don’t agree with all of them. I might be an open wallet when it comes to season tickets but I’m not begging to be emptied. I made the decision years ago that the club would only ever get ticket money from me. I give them the bare minimum to allow me to watch a game and that will continue. No 50/50 tickets, no programmes, no merchandise, no game worn jerseys. The ticket and nothing else.
Secondly, and this is the comment I’ve seen that I really disagree with is that my season ticket renewal is an indication to the club that I’m happy with how everything is. That couldn’t be further from the truth in this season or many of those in the past. If you read back through some of my articles from this time last year you’ll see that I was at the stage many of you reading this are now. I was seriously thinking of walking away from the Panthers and the sport in general. You want an example? Read this. I’d had enough of the hype and the spin off the ice as much as the turgid performances I was watching on it. In the end I still renewed my season ticket.
I know how crazy that sounds but I think I know the reason why I’m still here, still writing articles like this and I’ll still be here next year. Something changed over the summer. I don’t know what caused it and I don’t think I was aware of it until things slowly fell apart half way through the season.
I’ve never been one of those blood and thunder types who sat there with steam coming out of their ears when things were going wrong. I can’t think of a single game I’ve walked out of early (although I’ve gone on the “w of whistle” to paraphrase Linford Christie a fair few times). Don’t get me wrong I’ve been angry at games, I’ve screamed and shouted at referees and players on both sides but I’ve usually been able to compartmentalise things as well.
I think the change that came over me is around how I view a game. It’s not the be all and end all if it ever was but I don’t think that’s it either. Life is, unless you’re very lucky, a pain in the backside at times. John Cougar Mellencamp got it right when he said “life goes on long after the fun of living has gone”. You get more jaded as you get older (well I have done). It’s not that feeling of nostalgia making everything modern worse. I fully admit to sitting and talking about old time hockey (Eddie Shore!) but there’s no rose tinted glasses. It might have been fun but the hockey was way worse than we’re watching now. You can’t live in the past. The present might not be much fun at times but that’s what we’ve got.
I’m definitely in the “work to live” category rather than “live to work”. After a week of work I need a release and in the winter months that’s ice hockey, well ice hockey and beer. In the off season beer has to take the extra strain. I might not be at the stage where I live and breath for my Saturday night dose of the sport, I don’t leap out of bed shouting at the top of my lungs that it’s game day, quite the opposite, but I still look forward to those games. I might dread the outcome but I still feel a connection to those games. That connection, almost a shared history or future is what keeps me coming back. I’ve spoken and written about how that bond has been stretched and weakened by time and the club but it still exists, something that at times amazes me and while is does I guess I’ll still be sat in the stands.
If you watch any team in any sport for any extended period of time then it’s like a love affair. You love them but it’s never a straightforward affair. They can let you down. You’re lucky if they let you down fewer times than they dont but when they do it can make you want to stop loving them. That love is often unrequited. Do the club know or care that I love them? Probably not, they’re the girl at the school disco that everyone wants to dance with whilst you’re the spotty geek in the shadows that no one notices as she pirouettes across the floor with someone better looking and more exciting than you can ever dream to be. A team that loves its fans seems a long way away to me, probably about from here to Cardiff. Every team in the league will tell you they love the fans but they never say why do they?
I think the Nottingham Panthers mean something different to me now and I don’t know if I’m all that comfortable with it. I still love the club. I sometimes wish I didn’t but I do. Like any love affair though my reasons have changed. I sense of resignation has crept in amongst the love. We’re just a mid table team. Always have been really. We pulled it out the bag once but the zip seems to be broken now and what we had then has remained locked away. My expectations have never been very high, years of not achieving very much will do that to you.
The game means more than the result to me these days. It’s a chance to spend time with friends and family and a release from the 9 to 5 drudgery that we have to slog through week in week out. That 2 and a half hours are a release from the real world. I’ve got enough worries in that without needing to bring more from sport into it.
It would be easy to read all this and come to the conclusion I’m not bothered about the result. That’s not right. I still want to see the team win, it still bothers me if we lose. Sometimes it surprises me about how much it bothers me but most of the time I can shrug a result off and move on to the next and the next. You could also say that all this makes me part of the problem rather than the solution and you might be right there. It all depends on what you see as being the problem.
For years I dreamt of being able to do what I can now, to not have to carry the emotional weight of another failed season (and there’s no better words to describe this year than that). I should be happy, I’ve got what I wanted haven’t I? Well, no I haven’t. I want to be in a position where none of this matters. I want a club and team I can still love without that nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me what foolish idiot I am for doing it.
Is that too much to ask for? I’ll find out next year and let you know.